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Global Fund for Women calls for immediate release of women’s human rights activist

Mu Sochua celebrating her release, waving a flag from atop a car

UPDATE: Mu Sochua was released from prison on July 22, 2014 on conditional bail along with her 6 colleagues. Thank you for standing in solidarity with these fearless activists, greeted by jubilant crowds of supporters outside of Prey Sar Prison in Cambodia. In a note written the day before she was released, Mu Sochua wrote words that ring true for all human rights defenders: “A dream will make us fight to see it come true. An expectation will lead to passivity and probably to disappointment.”



Black and white portrait of Mu Sochua, a middle-aged Cambodian woman, looking at the camera. Photo ©Lucia De Giovanni

Global Fund for Women calls for the immediate release of Member of Parliament-elect Mu Sochua and six of her colleagues in Cambodia where they were arrested and placed in pre-trial detention on July 15th, for charges of insurrection, following a clash between district security guards and protestors. Since her arrest she has not been allowed to see anyone, other than her lawyer, and her colleagues have similarly been denied access to any visitors. Watch video footage depicting the arrest.

Commenting today, Global Fund for Women president and chief executive officer, Musimbi Kanyoro, said “Sochua, a former Global Fund for Women Board Member, has been instrumental as a leader in creating opportunities for women to participate in political spheres as elected representatives, civic champions and community activists. She is a woman of immense courage and conviction and she has a global network of supporters actively working to secure her freedom. We appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen to order the immediate release of Mu Sochua and to reassure the global community of his commitment to the right of citizens to speak out in Cambodia without fear of detention.”

Mu Sochua is the former Minister of Women's Affairs in Cambodia and in 2005, she was one of the 1,0000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against sex trafficking of women in Cambodia and neighboring Thailand.

Sochua has worked at the grassroots and policy levels on gender-based violence, freedom of the media, trafficking, labor rights, and women's civic and political participation for many years and she was an official advisor to the Global Fund for Women for over a decade. She was one of seven remarkable women from around the world whose life and contribution was honored in a documentary play called Seven produced by Global Fund for Women grantee, Vital Voices and in 2010 she was the recipient of the People's Choice Award instituted by Global Exchange for her work in serving under-represented populations and for giving them voice through her program "Women's Voices, Women's Choices".

Sochua returned to Cambodia in 1989 after 18 years in exile, and she has worked as an advocate for human rights, working to stop domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and human trafficking and to advocate for worker rights and democratic processes. She formed the first organization for women, called Khemara (Khmer: ខេមរា). and she joined the Funcinpec political party, winning a national assembly seat representing Battambang in 1998. Soon afterwards, she was asked to take over the Ministry of Women's and Veterans' Affairs, one of only two women in the cabinet. In July 2004 she stepped down from her role as a Minister, citing corruption as a major obstacle to her work. Almost immediately, she transferred her allegiance to the Sam Rainsy party, where she became secretary general before becoming Member of Parliament-elect.

We call on Ambassador Hem Heng, and his Government to immediately release Mu Sochua and her colleagues and to actively demonstrate their commitment to democracy as they build a new foundation for their country’s future based on justice, respect and due process. Please join us in calling for Mu Sochua’s immediate release by signing this petition and by sending letters of support to Ambassador Hem Heng:

His Excellency Mr. Hem Heng
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Royal Embassy of Cambodia
4530 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20011

 

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